Vaginal cancer represents only about one percent of all gynecologic tumours. The most common type is squamous cell carcinoma, which grows in the epithelium, or interior lining of the vagina. Other even rarer types are: adenocarcinoma, melanoma, sarcoma, small cell carcinoma, lymphoma, and carcinoid.
Adenocarcinoma affects primarily daughters of women who were given diethylstilbestrol (DES) while pregnant. This was a medication used from the 1940s to the 1970s to prevent miscarriages, but was withdrawn as a treatment for pregnant women after it was shown to cause vaginal cancers in the daughters who had been exposed to DES in utero.
Vaginal squamous cell carcinoma has been associated with certain strains of the human papilloma virus (HPV), which is also a strong risk factor for cervical cancer.
Treatment for vaginal cancer usually involves surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy, used alone or in combination; however, each case is assessed individually and, depending on that assessment, a course of treatment is recommended.